NEW YORK —
Never mind the predictions. As Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters see it, the New York presidential primary race is down to the wire.
Clinton, her supporters argue, wears the home jersey in New York’s Democratic primary — a state she served for eight years as U.S. senator. Polls indicate she holds a 12 percentage point lead heading into election day.
But with hours to go before voters head to their precincts, Bernie Sanders' supporters remain optimistic, particularly in the borough of Brooklyn, where both campaigns have set up official shop. Brooklyn also happens to be the Vermont senator's birthplace.
Just three kilometers separate the rival campaign headquarters: Clinton’s in a modern marble floor high rise in Brooklyn Heights and Sanders’ in a Gowanus neighborhood warehouse — colorfully decorated with multicultural, multigenerational banners: “Unidos con Bernie,” “Asian Americans + Pacific Islanders for Bernie,” and “Boomers for Bernie.”
In both locations, a slow, steady flow of volunteers—often sporting team logos — approach their respective front desks. In Gowanus, a “SIGN IN” poster, hand-drawn in capital bubble letters, marks the entrance for volunteers.
Brooklyn native Crystal Taylor has spent her day canvassing for Sanders and says she senses enthusiasm and support on the streets. She said she would be “very surprised” if Clinton wins the state.
“We were just walking down the street, two ladies and a baby and a stroller, with the signs. And people just went crazy — ‘Yeah, Bernie, I’m voting on Tuesday, I’ll be there! You can count on my vote!’ It was just amazing,” says Taylor. “I really haven’t seen that with any other candidate, and I’ve been looking.”
Supporters cheer during a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at Hunters Point park, April 18, 2016, in the Queens borough of New York.
In Brooklyn Heights, the sign-in process for volunteers is similar to Gowanus. But Clinton volunteers are greeted by building doormen.
There, during a 15-minute span, several would-be volunteers approach the security table. When asked if they have appointments, a couple of them say, yes. They show an ID and proceed to the elevators.
But for those without appointments, the process is more complicated:
“Do you have a contact?”
“It’s by appointment only.”
“Can you provide a number?”
“Sorry, I can’t.”
One Clinton supporter expresses her frustration. “I’m just trying to volunteer,” she says. After locating an alternate phone bank location, she turns to me. “It’s really bad … This happened two times already.”
“If I didn’t believe in her so much,” she adds, shaking her head.
A contest built on ‘character’
Outside Clinton’s headquarters, two Sanders supporters hold up signs and an American flag, silently, in protest. “NEOCON,” the sign reads in capital blue, below a caricature of Clinton’s face.
Joe Giannini, a Vietnam veteran with the 1st Battalion 3rd Marines, says he will not vote for Clinton in part because of her 2002 vote as U.S. senator to go to war in Iraq, labeling her decision making “politically expedient.”
A self-described “Brooklyn kid,” Giannini says the decision to support Sanders, for him, is about character.
“I’m okay with Bernie,” he says. “I don’t think he’s a real leader, but at least he has good judgment.”
Still, Clinton supporters in Brooklyn insist she will win, and have the polls in their favor to prove it.
Brian Fox, an African American voter from Bedford-Stuyvesant, near Brooklyn Heights, says Hillary is more in-tune with the needs of the neighborhood.
“She came to the area to see what we were looking for,” said Fox. “You’ve got a lot of people that talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. So I just think she’s a better candidate.”
Haitian-born U.S. citizen Pierre Pretpetit, now a retired taxi driver, agrees. He says the United States has given him everything, but he has one last request.
“I would like her [Clinton] to be president, then I’m going to be happy,” said Pretpetit, laughing. “I have my black president, so now I will get the whole package.”